Those who thought the “farm bloc” in Congress went the way of tail fins and rabbit ears have had a surprise, writes Dan Morgan in Sunday’s Washington Post. A group of moderate to conservative Democrats from farm states and rural areas have “now hold the fate of health-care legislation in its hands,” according to Morgan. They are also shaping the climate change bill and food safety legislation. “You might call these newly empowered farm-state lawmakers the Agracrats,” Morgan writes. “They’re Democrats, all right. In the House, many of them are newcomers who defeated Republicans in 2006 or 2008. In the Senate, Democrats have 12 of the 18 seats in the central farm belt and northern Great Plains.”
It was so much easier being a party that covered a limited amount of territory (ideological and geographic). Now the Democrats have to deal with the Agracrats and the Blue Dogs, the formal caucus of moderate Democratic House members. They overlap a bit and, Morgan writes, they “share a prairie-populist wariness of Wall Street and Washington that has been heightened by last year’s financial meltdown and the ensuing government bailouts.”
Going forward, according to Morgan, “agricultural interests will press to either kill or further rewrite the climate change bill.” They are active on making sure rural hospitals get a fair shake in the health reform bill. And they keeping are protecting the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which they believe protects rural areas against manipulation of grain markets.